The Dragon Keeper (The Rain Wild Chronicles), by Robin Hobb (Harper Voyager, £8.99).

FOR the first time in several generations, a new crop of dragons are born in the lands of the Rain Wilds. However, the creatures that emerge are far from the powerful, shining beasts of mythology. They are stunted, deformed and unable to fly. Their inability to hunt for themselves means they have to depend on the humans, so an uneasy alliance is forged.

The dragons cling to an ancient memory of a fabled city upriver, their true home. But the city of Kelsingra doesn’t appear on any map and without human help they could never find it. So a band of dragon keepers are assembled. It’s a dangerous job, looking after charges who could turn vicious at any time, whilst also facing many perils in search of a city that may not even exist ....

Originally planned as a standalone novel set in the same world as Hobb’s earlier stories, the length of the finished book necessitated it being split into two volumes. The characterisation is sharp, with well rounded personalities emerging from all the principal participants, both human and dragon. An impressive fantasy novel from an experienced and popular writer, hopefully it won’t be long before the second book is published and the story is complete.